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Denuclearization to be “central issue” at Moon-Kim summit: Blue House, By Colin Zwirko

Denuclearization to be “central issue” at Moon-Kim summit: Blue House

Three-day event to include live TV broadcasts and visits to major landmarks, restaurants

South Korean President Moon Jae-in plans to discuss denuclearization in depth with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during two days of scheduled meetings this Tuesday and Wednesday, the Blue House chief of staff told reporters on Monday.

In a briefing laying out plans for the upcoming summit, which will run from September 18-20, Presidential Chief of Staff Im Jong-seok said that progress on denuclearization must be made through leader-to-leader discussions.

While the topic had been mostly left to discussions between North Korea and the U.S. in the past, Im said it would “now be a very important central issue” to discuss at the top level and that it would not be possible to resolve merely through working-level talks.

The three most important items on the agenda for the summit, he continued, would be improving inter-Korean relations in accordance with the Panmunjom Declaration, accelerating denuclearization talks with the U.S., and ending inter-Korean military tensions.

On denuclearization, he said the South will do its part to “mediate and accelerate U.S.-DPRK dialogue on denuclearization” and “work for resuming… honest conversation without delay for progress on denuclearization of North Korea and corresponding actions by the U.S.”

Later on Monday, President Moon elaborated on his self-described role as mediator between the North and the U.S., saying in a meeting with his top aides that he plans to hold “candid talks” with Kim Jong Un to “find an intersecting point between the United States’ call for denuclearization steps and the North’s demand for corresponding steps to guarantee its security and end the hostile relationship,” according to Yonhap News Agency.

“I believe the denuclearization issue can move forward at a rapid rate should the dialogue be resumed and the two leaders sit face to face with each other again,” Moon reportedly added.

On improving inter-Korean relations, Im said in the earlier briefing that this week’s summit would build upon the points of the Panmunjom Declaration, and that the two sides will “discuss the specific direction of development going forward.”

The third point, the “cessation of North-South military tensions and the threat of war,” he continued, would be carried out as a continuation of ongoing military talks to “eliminate the possibility of clashes, and completely set out the conditions for peace.”

He added that the two sides will also discuss solutions to the “agony of separated families.”

Answering a question from a reporter, Im denied that the order of the three agenda items were a reflection of the order in which the points would be written in a hypothetical agreement signed at this week’s summit.

He also said it was difficult to predict if a new Panmunjom Declaration-style agreement will emerge from the talks.

President Moon also seemed to play down any chance of additional agreements, saying Monday he believes this was no longer important and that instead, his focus would be “to fundamentally develop inter-Korean relations while implementing inter-Korean agreements that have been signed so far.”

Moon and Kim will then meet Wednesday morning for a second day of talks, after which Im said it may be possible to announce to the press details and outcomes of the talks up to that point.

Lunch on the second day will take place at Okryugwan in central Pyongyang – a restaurant famous for its cold noodles and which provided catering for the two leaders’ first summit.

Details for the final day dinner banquet were not yet available, though Im said President Moon had personally requested it take place at a restaurant popular among Pyongyang residents.

In what the Blue House has described as an unprecedented development, certain events during the multi-day summit will also be broadcast live on television to an international audience.

Im added that discussions over which events would be allowed to be broadcast live were still ongoing as of Monday.

He also said that Kim Jong Un’s schedule remained a secret, and that besides particular summit meetings planned between Moon and Kim, it was not yet clear whether Kim would attend the welcoming event at the airport and other events.

In a separate development Monday, MHINK News learned that no foreign media outlets will be allowed into the DPRK to cover the three-day summit this week, after having been denied access by the North Korean side.


What’s on the agenda for the fifth inter-Korean summit? By Dagyum Ji

What's on the agenda for the fifth inter-Korean summit?
South Korea has ambitious plans for this week’s third meeting between Moon and Kim 

This week’s third meeting between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un comes at a critical time for Seoul: nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang are at a stalemate, and Moon faces challenges, both domestic and international, to his peninsula policy. It will also serve as a critical test of Moon’s ability.


Sea freight service between N. Korea and Vladivostok to begin Tuesday: Interfax, By Oliver Hotham

Sea freight service between N. Korea and Vladivostok to begin Tuesday: Interfax
Route to be operated by Russia’s InvestStroiTrest company 

A new freight shipping service between North Korea’s Rajin Port and Russia’s Vladivostok Port is set to begin Tuesday, the route’s operators told Russian media late last week.

The route will be operated by the InvestStroiTrest company, Interfax reported, and will use the DPRK-flagged 600 ton “Pyuong Hua” ship to run the weekly service.

“We start the process of sea transportation of goods from September 18 from the port of Vladivostok to Rajin,” InvestStroiTrest director Vladimir Baranov was quoted as having said.

“A small steam-ship ‘Pyuong Hua’ ([under] the flag of the DPRK) will be involved,” Baranov added. “It is planned that we will transport flour, meat, vegetable oil on the ship.”

No ship with this name could be found in international shipping records, however, and neither Baranov or InvestStroiTrest Deputy Director General Mikhail Timofeevich Khmel responded to requests for comment from NK News. 

News of the new route comes amid increased public discussion of DPRK-Russian economic cooperation in the latter’s Far East.

A North Korean foreign ministry official last Thursday expressed the country’s intention to open a “trading house” in the Russian Far East region of Primorye (Primorsky Krai) to promote trade of domestic goods, according to the official website of the region.

Kim said the DPRK is interested in intensifying trade relations with the Primorsky Territory, and that the new trading house will serve to both promote North Korean products and hold exhibitions.

That meeting also saw DPRK officials point to the construction of a border crossing and a bridge “connecting the stations of Khasan and Tumangang” as further evidence of the two country’s growing ties.

The new shipping route will also not be InvestStroiTrest’s first foray into DPRK-Russia shipping, with the company having previously served as operators of an ill-fated Rajin-Vladivostok cruise line – once set to operate six trips between the two countries per month using the North Korean-owned Mangyongbong ship.

Deputy Director General Khmel at the time told MHI-NK News  that the ship had been carrying “animal feed” and insisted he and his colleagues “could not” violate sanctions.

The vessel appears to be still stuck near Vladivostok, having last broadcast its location just outside the port on February 2.


North Korean cargo ship returns to Chinese coal port, By Leo Byrne

North Korean cargo ship returns to Chinese coal port
Vessel was linked to $250 million rice dispute, owned by North Korean “intelligence agencies”

Another North Korean vessel arrived at a Chinese bulk port Thursday, its third such visit in recent months to the same area which is equipped to handle sanctioned commodities like coal, the NK Pro ship tracker shows.

The visit represents another instance of DPRK ships calling in ports other than Dalian in recent weeks, marking a possible uptick in North Korean-flagged vessel traffic in the region.

The 9750-tonne Kwang Myong arrived and docked at Longkou port on Thursday. Satellite imagery indicates the vessel pulled up at a berth which handles coal, with spoils visible nearby.

The previous visits in May and June were at a different terminal, though satellite photographs show those berths also process coal.

The North Korean-flagged vessel also has a colorful past, and was once involved in a $250 million rice shipping dispute, leading to its arrest and a diplomatic incident back in 2004.

Although it was flagged to Panama at the time, it was registered to Kwang Myong International Shipping Panama, a company whose owners had Korean names.

According to a report from a Singaporean law firm involved in the case, the ship attempted to deliver poor quality coal leading to its Chinese buyer calling for the ship to be impounded.

“We immediately submitted an application to the court for immediately arresting the vessel ‘Kwang Myong’ that was about to leave Shanghai in 3 hours,” the lawyers wrote in 2010.

“However, 24 hours later we were surprised to learn that although the ship was flying a Panamanian flag, it was essentially under the intelligence agencies of the DPRK and the crew members on board were also North Koreans.”

While the dispute occurred long before the existence of the current sanctions regime, the ship may not have moved far from its original owners.

The ship’s current owner is the Pyongyang-based Korea Kwangmyong Shipping, though is located at the same address as its former owner, the less North Korean sounding Si Wan Fung Holding.

While Si Wan Fung Holding no longer operates any vessels, at one time they were also involved with another vessel called the Bright Star (now called the Myong Sin), a vessel which passed through the clutches of well-known sanctions evaders T-Sisters and Baili Shipping and Trading.

According to the UN Panel of Experts (PoE) T-Sisters was connected to Ocean Maritime Management (OMM), a well known DPRK weapon smuggler working under the purview of the country’s Ministry of Land and Marine Transport.


Russia pressured UN panel to alter North Korea sanctions report: Haley, By Hamish Macdonald

Russia pressured UN panel to alter North Korea sanctions report: Haley
Report originally blocked by Russia in August, subsequently released to the UNSC

Russia pressured an independent UN panel into altering a North Korea related sanctions report as it implicated Russian actors in sanctions breaches, the U.S. Ambassador to the UN – Nikki Haley – said in a press release on Thursday.

The interim report, prepared by the Panel of Experts (PoE), was submitted to the UNSC this week after being blocked by Russia in August. Russia disagreed with “certain elements of the report”, Russia’s UN envoy Vassily Nebenzia told media on August 30.

While the report has now been submitted to the UNSC, according to the UN Mission at the UN, it is a version that has been altered under pressure from the Russian Government.

“The report submitted to the Council was not the same independent report that was submitted to the UN’s North Korea sanctions committee last month. This version of the report was amended at the request of Russia,” the press release read.

“In recent weeks, Russia pressured the Panel to alter its independent report, which included sanctions violations implicating Russian actors,” it said, while also criticizing Russia for preventing proposed designations at the UNSC.

Russia, along with China, blocked the U.S.-recommended sanctions designations in the UN against Russia-based entities and vessels.

At the time Russia’s UN mission spokesperson Fyodor Strzhizhovsky called the recommendations “unjustified” and “unilaterally applied,” TASS reported. The entities were designated by the U.S. Department of the Treasury a week earlier on August 21.

In quotes attributed directly to Haley in the press release, the Ambassador to the UN also criticized the PoE.

“Russia can’t be allowed to edit and obstruct independent UN reports on North Korea sanctions just because they don’t like what they say. Period. We’re disappointed in the Panel for caving to Russian pressure and making changes to what should be an independent report,” Haley was quoted as saying.

“This is a dangerous precedent and a stain on the important work of the Panel,” she added, while also urging the PoE to release the original report.

On Thursday, the U.S. Department of the Treasury designated one Russian and one Chinese entity it said were actually under North Korean management and control.

The two companies, Russia-based Volasys Silver Star and its China-based sister company Yanbian Silverstar Network Technology Co., Ltd, are IT companies designated for their involvement in the export of DPRK labor and for operating in the North Korean IT industry.

The Chinese based entity has direct links to North Korea’s defense and WMD industry, the Treasury said.


Vladivostok’s Eastern Economic Forum: what progress on North Korea? By Anthony V. Rinna

Vladivostok’s Eastern Economic Forum: what progress on North Korea?

Last week’s event saw talk of economic cooperation, trilateral projects, and sanctions relief

Underscoring its desire for increased economic participation in East Asia, North Korea made a debut appearance at this year’s Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia.

Representing the DPRK was former ambassador to Russia Kim Yong Jae, who currently heads the Ministry of External Economic Relations.

Kim Yong Jae’s sideline chats with senior Russian figures reflected the duality of  Moscow’s policies toward the DPRK. On the one hand, North Korea is important for Russia’s broader Asian strategy, which includes re-asserting the modern Russian Federation as a Pacific power. On the other, ties with the DPRK are crucial for Russia’s strategic vision of developing its Far East.

Kim met with Russia’s deputy foreign minister Igor Morgulov as well as Alexander Kozlov, Russia’s recently-appointed minister of Far East development. During Kim Young Jae’s meeting with Russian officials, the North Korean and Russian governments discussed bilateral economic cooperation.

Morgulov reported that the atmosphere of the talks on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum was positive.

Speculation that Kim Jong Un may attend the Eastern Economic Forum arose earlier this summer, particularly in light of Vladimir Putin’s invitation to Kim Jong Un to visit Russia.

 

The latest from the podcast:Back from Pyongyang: a rough-and-ready round table – Ep.37 

Back from Pyongyang: a rough-and-ready round table – NKNews Podcast Ep.37
NK News journalists share initial impressions from an eight-day press trip to the DPRK

Thursday saw NK News Managing Director Chad O’Carroll and Managing Editor Oliver Hotham return from an eight-day trip to North Korea, intended, in large part, to cover the festivities surrounding the country’s 70th anniversary.

Now, in a round table recorded the very next day, Chad and Oliver share initial thoughts from the trip, some impressions gathered from speaking to locals, and what it all means for the larger geopolitical picture going forward.

Listen to the full episode at MHI-NK News

Top MHI-NK Stories from around the web:

S. Korean foreign minister, Pompeo hold phone talks on N. Korea (Yonhap News)

The top diplomats of South Korea and the United States had phone talks on North Korea on Monday in a show of close collaboration on the eve of a planned inter-Korean summit. Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha briefed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on summit preparations and recent developments in Seoul-Pyongyang ties, according to her ministry.

They agreed to continue close communication each other while making constant efforts for the denuclearization of the peninsula and establishment of a peace regime, it added.President Moon Jae-in plans to fly to Pyongyang on Tuesday and sit down with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un later in the day.

Hasil gambar untuk S. Korean foreign minister and Pompeo hold phone talks

The leaders will also have talks Wednesday, as Moon is scheduled to return to Seoul the following day, the presidential office announced.

Moon’s chief of staff, Im Jong-seok, made it clear that denuclearization will a be key agenda item in the third summit between the left-leaning president and Kim.

Keen attention is being paid to whether Moon will be able to produce a breakthrough in the stalled efforts to advance the denuclearization process. If so, it would help facilitate another meeting between Kim and President Donald Trump.

Speaking to reporters, Im was cautious about the outlook for any tangible agreement on denuclearization in the Moon-Kim talks. Finding ways to reduce border tensions and war risks and promote cross-border exchanges are also high on the agenda.


Blue House opens Main Press Center in Seoul for coverage of inter-Korean summit(Arirang)

Hasil gambar untuk Blue House opens Main Press Center in Seoul for coverage of inter-Korean summit

When the main press center in Ilsan, Gyeonggi-do Province broadcast live coverage of President Moon stepping over to the North, journalists experienced an overwhelming rush of emotions. The main press center will be playing that same role during the Pyeongyang summit, but this time it’s in the heart of Seoul. South Korea’s presidential office is operating the center at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza to accommodate thousands of members of the local and international media.

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“This is the closest the international media can get to the Pyeongyang Summit. Details of the meeting will be sent from Pyeongyang to the Main Press Center, which journalists will deliver to the rest of the world.”

The MPC includes a main briefing room, international broadcasting center, interview room, and a master control room.
In the main briefing room, journalists will be able to watch live video footage of the summit via two giant screens.
There will also be debates among different panels of experts.

The press center will be connected to an online-platform to provide details on the summit in nine different languages, including English, Chinese, and Arabic.
Media members will also be able to access articles, photos, and videos on the summit at any time and any place.
The center is scheduled to operate through Friday, a day after the summit ends.


China proposes to expand its Belt and Road Initiative (Dong-a Ilbo)

Gambar terkait

China has revealed a plan  to expand its “Belt and Road Initiative” with Dandong, a city in Liaoning province that borders North Korea, as a gateway.The province of Liaoning has proposed a plan to the government to “link its city Dandong with the Korean Peninsula” via rail and road as part of its contribution to China’s “Belt and Road Initiative,” according to the official Liaoning Daily.

Hasil gambar untuk China proposes to expand its Belt and Road Initiative

The province has suggested a rail, road, and communications link from the city of Dandong to the North Korean capital Pyongyang and then on to Seoul and Busan in the South, saying that the link would be a direct route to a port in the south, referring to the city of Busan through which it can expand its plan to the Pacific. The province is also pushing for a new road between Dandong and Pyongyang through Sinuiju.

The document also said that the province will further develop a North Korea-China economic zone in Hwanggumpyong Island and the two countries’ border trade zone in Dandong into the important pillars of economic cooperation with the North along with Dandong’s key development zone for experiments. Liaoning is also seeking central government approval at due time to establish a special economic zone in Dandong while increasing flight routes between airports in Shenyang, Dalian, Dandong and North Korea and Russia’s Far Eastern cities.
The document also included a plan to support the cross-border trade zone in Dandong as an online e-commerce platform for the two countries. “Guided by the important consensus by the leaders of China and North Korea, (we) steadily make plans of cooperation with North Korea,” said the provincial government, indicating that the initiative’s expansion into the Korean Peninsula had been agreed upon by President Xi Jinping and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at previous three rounds of bilateral summits.

Hasil gambar untuk China proposes to expand its Belt and Road Initiative
Beijing’s such plan is pushed alongside the establishment of “Northeast Asian Economic Corridors,” for which China, South and North Korea, Japan, Russia, and Mongolia work together. The Liaoning province said that it will create a group that shares a common destiny in Northeast Asia by converging economic corridors that connect China, Russia, and Mongolia with a framework called the “China-Japan-South Korea plus X model” so that the six countries can enhance cooperation. This embodies the country’s intention to take the lead in the development of the Northeast Asian region with Liaoning as a hub. The “China-Japan-South Korea plus X model,” first suggested by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at a trilateral summit in May, calls for free trades with other countries including a free trade agreement between the three countries.

An expanded Belt and Road Initiative of China overlaps with South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s inter-Korean economic policy called “New Economic Map” that plans to connect cities from Seoul to Pyongyang, Sinuiju, and Dandong. “This may be an opportunity for South Korea and China to cooperate on the development of North Korea’s infrastructure, but it is also possible that China may try to absorb South Korea’s policy into its own initiative,” said a diplomatic source. In fact, while Seoul and Busan are included in Beijing’s plan for expansion, the document only emphasizes cooperation with the North while not mentioning any of it with the South.

Some say that U.N. Security Council resolutions on the North Korean regime are likely to be violated in the process of expanding China’s initiative into the Korean Peninsula. “China was unlikely to push forward any infrastructure projects with the North while sanctions were still in place,” said Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post (SCMP).


N. Korea raps Japan for remarks on end-of-war declaration (Korea Herald)

North Korea’s state-controlled media criticized Japan’s top diplomat Sunday for his negative view on declaring an end to the Korean War anytime soon.The criticism is seen to reflect Pyongyang’s yearning for security assurances associated with such a declaration.

The two Koreas plan to hold another round of summit talks next week in the North’s capital. And the end-of-war declaration will apparently be among the key agenda items, along with Pyongyang’s denuclearization.Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono, however, said publicly such a declaration is premature amid no progress in efforts to denuclearize North Korea.

“In conclusion, the nonsense of Kono clearly shows Japan’s wicked intention to hide the wretched situation that it has been completely marginalized from the surrounding structure and to poke into the regional issue by inciting the confrontation atmosphere,” Pyongyang’s official news agency KCNA said in an English-language commentary.

It added, “The trend of the times is dialogue and peace, which no one can deny and go against them.”

It is the “firm stand and will of North Korea to completely remove the danger of an armed conflict and the fear of war on the Korean peninsula and turn it into the place of peace and this is commanding positive supports and deep sympathy of the world people,” the KCNA stressed.


North Korea’s Other Weapons of Mass Destruction (Arms Control Association)

A South Korean rescue team wearing chemical protective suits participates in an anti-terror drill as part of a disaster management exercise at the COEX shopping and exhibition center in Seoul on May 20, 2016. (Photo: Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images)

Although its nuclear and missile programs are frequently in the headlines, North Korea’s other weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs and their role in Pyongyang’s security strategies draw less discussion and analysis.

Expanding analysis to include a consideration of North Korea’s chemical weapons capabilities allows for a better understanding of the doctrine around its unconventional weapons and thus for development of more tailored policies to deal with the WMD threats and risks they pose.

North Korea has never confirmed publicly that it maintains a chemical weapons stockpile, although the U.S. government and others have long assessed that Pyongyang has a variety of lethal chemical agents and related missile and artillery delivery systems. In 1989, Pyongyang signed the 1925 Geneva Protocol, which prohibits the use of chemical and biological weapons in warfare but does not ban production or stockpiling. North Korea signed that accord with reservations, outlining its right to dismiss the protocol in the case of another party that violates the use prohibition. North Korea has not joined the more comprehensive 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which extends the prohibition to include production and stockpiling.

In considering North Korea’s strategic drivers, three main elements are common throughout its history: deterrence and reunification, which are recognized as supporting the principal goal of protecting national sovereignty, and survival.1 There has been much debate on the role of nuclear weapons in this context but much less focus on the role of chemical weapons.

By developing a long-range nuclear capability and maintaining regional WMD assets, Pyongyang is able to take advantage of a difference between the United States and South Korea in calculation of strategic risks. A key South Korean security concern, as it relates to North Korea, is the use of conventional and WMD capabilities with regional ranges. U.S. officials, as North Korea’s long-range missile program develops, will have an increasing interest in protecting the continental United States, which may include a lessened desire to retaliate on behalf of South Korea. Such a divergence of strategic interests could weaken the U.S.-South Korean alliance and thus reduce the adversarial risk to Pyongyang, a motivation for North Korea to pursue capabilities that can achieve this result.

North Korea’s strategic goals have also been shaped by founder Kim Il Sung’s vision of leadership over a unified Korea and the use of military force to achieve it. This thinking is often used to understand the role of nuclear weapons under Kim Jong Un, the late Kim’s now-ruling grandson. Such a goal could be pursued through military actions or coercion under the shadow of nuclear weapons. Although the latter is not explicitly referenced in current North Korean discourse, it should not be assumed to be absent from the regime’s internal thinking.

South Korean soldiers take part in a chemical weapons drill during a military exercise in Seoul on July 28, 2010. (Photo: Park Ji-Hwan/AFP/Getty Images)South Korean soldiers take part in a chemical weapons drill during a military exercise in Seoul on July 28, 2010.

Yet, the goal of reunification in the short term likely has declined. The same may be true of the long-term vision, although reunification remains imbedded in North Korea’s Constitution and the North Korean psyche. At the same time, given the economic and military buildup in South Korea and increased U.S. military presence in the region, the North’s worry about a potential territorial attack has increased, likely elevating deterrence for regime survival above reunification. This does not equate to a renunciation of reunification but does suggest a shift in strategic priorities, especially in the short to medium term, that prioritizes nuclear weapons.

The two overarching elements of North Korean strategic thinking—deterrence and reunification—are used to support the enduring goal of regime survival. Beyond repelling external efforts to remove the regime, it also encompasses the elimination of internal threats, economic development, and, secondarily, reunification. The three strategic priorities are interlinked; deterring adversaries helps preserve the regime, which is key for any possibility of reunification.

These strategic motivations have driven consecutive North Korean leaders to pursue asymmetric military assets. Given the great asymmetric value of nuclear weapons in relation to conventional military threats on the peninsula and the option of balancing perceived nuclear threats from the United States, these capabilities have visibly taken priority.

Understanding strategic goals in the context of North Korean priorities in the past, present, and future is important for understanding the role played by weapons of mass destruction. As the nuclear capability has advanced, it is worthwhile to consider what this means, if anything, for North Korea’s chemical weapons capabilities.

History of Chemical Weapons

Hasil gambar untuk North Korea Chemical Weapons GIF

Although North Korea’s chemical capabilities briefly hit the headlines in 2017 following the assassination of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of Kim Jong Un, there has been concern for decades about North Korean chemical weapons efforts.

In 1961, Kim Il Sung’s “declaration of chemicalization” formally initiated a dual-use chemical industry in North Korea. The declaration came at a time when the North was attempting to recover from the Korean War, investing heavily in agricultural and industrial development, as well as seeking to expand military capabilities to support opportunities for reunification by force and to defend against similar attempts from the South.

By 1979, a U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency assessment reported that North Korea had acquired a defensive chemical capability. This assessment coincided with a 1980 statement reportedly made by Kim Il Sung to the Korean Worker’s Party Central Military Committee that “poison gas” would be effective for use in combat, boasting that North Korea had “succeeded in producing poisonous gas and bacterial weapons through our own efforts supported by Soviet scientists in the field.”

Information on how such activities have continued to evolve is sparse. Assessments relating to the North’s chemical weapons stockpile suggest that Pyongyang has developed chemical capabilities across a spectrum—vesicants, nerve, cyanogen, and choking agents. Arguably the most publicly visible of these has been nerve agents, not only appearing in the Kim Jong Nam assassination but also featuring in Chinese media reports that suggested a detected leak of sarin. Defector testimonies have also included accounts of prisoners being victims of chemical testing. Such defector accounts should be read with caution in terms of reliability, but not disregarded.

Amid evidence that chemical weapons capability exists, stockpile estimates vary, with a range of 2,000 to 5,000 tons of agent. A 2009 report noted that there had been no indication of growing storage facilities that would be necessary in the case of an expanding chemical arsenal and estimated that 2,000 to 3,000 tons of agent would be sufficient to significantly impact a war with the South. The South Korean Ministry of National Defense has cited similar stockpile estimates since 2008, with a relatively consistent but broad range of 2,500 to 5,000 tons of agent. It is widely assumed that North Korea can deliver chemical weapons via a range of systems, including artillery, multiple rocket launchers, ballistic missiles, and aircraft.

Role of Chemical Weapons

Hasil gambar untuk North Korea Chemical Weapons GIFHasil gambar untuk North Korea is 'expanding missile factory'in syiria GIF

Despite the focus on the nuclear weapons program to strengthen deterrence and support regime survival, chemical weapons likely continue to have value for the Kim regime. Historically, chemical weapons most likely filled a deterrence gap prior to the development of an adequate nuclear capability. Some scholars have observed that the threat of U.S. nuclear use in the Korean War helped drive the desire for a chemical capability; although acquisition of nuclear weapons was probably a long-term aspiration for Kim Il Sung, chemical weapons were recognized as a weapon of mass destruction that could provide deterrence as well.

The deterrence role of chemical weapons persists given the uncertainty about North Korea’s military capabilities. The ambiguity can play to North Korea’s favor by complicating an adversary’s calculus. Chemical weapons continue to back up North Korea’s conventional capabilities and underpin the nuclear deterrent through increasing the risks associated with military action to overthrow the regime. By complicating how a military scenario on the Korean peninsula could play out, chemical weapons increase the risks associated with military action and contribute to calculus against this option, thus assisting in the preservation of the regime.

Further, chemical weapons have a role for the regime in sustaining international relationships and revenue generation. Maintaining a chemical program allows North Korea to retain marketable proliferation skills and assets. A recent notable example was the 2016 visit of a North Korean technical delegation to Syria. The visit included the transfer of special resistance valves and thermometers that are known for use in chemical weapons programs.

Although this is likely a secondary benefit of chemical weapons capabilities, it brings added value and justification for maintaining chemical weapons even as the nuclear program has grown. Proliferation of chemical weapons-related equipment and know-how will continue to be a valuable asset for North Korea, particularly if the international norms against use of such weapons continue to erode, as seen in Syria.

Asymmetric Advantages

Hasil gambar untuk North Korea is 'expanding missile factory'in syiria GIF

Arms control discussions that focus on just one of these capabilities might not be able to lead to the removal of other types of weapons of mass destruction. Given the differing but complimentary roles of chemical and nuclear capabilities, approaching North Korea with the idea of limiting or removing these capabilities together, as some U.S. officials have proposed, likely would not produce fruitful results. An approach to remove both or signal an intent to remove one and then the other without significant shifts in the security context would make North Korea reluctant to engage.

Even if the current dialogue around the nuclear program can produce tangible results in at least capping the nuclear program, the opportunity for including chemical weapons will be low. North Korea has consistently maintained that it does not possess a chemical weapons program and to shift to a position of acknowledgment and a willingness to limit these capabilities will only be possible with a dramatic shift in the security environment in which North Korea sees itself and as part of a much longer-term strategy.

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